Opiate Addiction

opiatesThe terms “opioid” and “opiate” are often used interchangeably, but they have distinct meaning and usages. At one point in time, the word “opioid” was used to describe only the synthetic substance used to mimic opium. Today, it’s used to define the entire class of substances either derived from or used to simulate opium. “Opiate,” on the other hand, refers to a natural drug derived from the opium poppy. Whether the drug is in its natural or synthetic form, it can cause serious side effects and be dangerously addictive.

While opiates are prescribed to relieve acute pain, prolonged use can lead to opiate addiction (opioid addiction) and abuse. Common opioids include prescription painkillers such as Dilaudid, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl, as well as the illicit drug heroin. Opiate addiction (including opioid addiction) is the leading cause of the drug overdose in the United States, with an estimated 20,101 deaths due to prescription painkillers and 12,990 deaths due to heroin use in 2015. Opiate addiction is a disease that has destroyed the lives and families of millions. While there is no cure for opiate addiction, this disease can be treated in drug addiction rehabilitation, or drug rehab.

To fully understand the depths of opioid addiction, including opiate addiction, it’s important to consider the intended use of these substances as well as what makes them so addictive.

What Are Opiates?

Opiates are drugs used to treat pain derived from the opium plant. These substances are highly addictive, so they pose the threat of opiate addiction (including opioid addiction) to any person who takes the drug for a prolonged period of time. The Sumerians first cultivated the opium poppy plant, or Papaver somniferum, in 3,400 B.C. They referred to it as the “joy plant,” and the wonder drug was soon passed around the world as merchants learned of its multiple uses. Opium was not only used to relieve pain, for which it is still used today, but it was also used to induce sleep and give relief to the bowels. Opiates are also frequently used to treat coughs.

Doctors have been extracting a variety of active substances out of opium for medical purposes for many years. These ingredients occur naturally in the sap of the opium poppy. Natural derivatives of the opium poppy plant are called opiates. Opiates can be manipulated further synthetically. Such man-made opiates are called opioids. Collectively, these opiate and opioid derivatives of the poppy plant include morphine, codeine, oxycodone, and heroin. While there is no major difference in the effectiveness of the drugs, opioids are synthetic or partly synthetic drugs that are made in similar processes as opiates. In opioids, the active ingredients are synthesized by chemical processes.

However, the two terms are often used interchangeably. Nearly as long as the drug has existed, it’s been used both medicinally and abusively to get high. Opiates exist on the drug market in a few different forms — as prescription pharmaceuticals (morphine, codeine, methadone, etc.), and illicit street drugs (heroin, opium, etc). All of these drugs can be abused, potentially leading to opiate addiction (opioid addiction), even if they are prescriptions. If you listen to drug dealers and opiate abusers speak, they may refer to all of these drugs using slang terms. These street names help evade police attention. Some of the street names for a variety of opiates include:

  • H
  • Hammer
  • Skag
  • Gear
  • Smack
  • Horse
  • Elephant
  • Rock
  • Nose drops
  • Black tar
  • China white
  • White
  • Chinese H
  • White dynamite
  • Dragon

Opiate Intended Use

Opiate pain medications are prescribed mainly to treat moderate to severe pain. In most cases, opiates are prescribed following a surgery or procedure of some kind. Common legal opiate drugs include:

  • Morphine is a highly addictive, naturally occurring substance found in the opium plant
  • Meperidine, similar to morphine, is a synthetic prescription medication that produces similar effects. 
  • Codeine, a less powerful but still addictive substance, is primarily used as a cough suppressant. Codeine is typically prescribed as a combination medication. 
  • Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid. It’s the most frequently prescribed opiate medication on the market, and its brand names include Lortab and Vicodin. 
  • Oxycodone is another semi-synthetic opioid. Common brand names are Percocet and Oxycontin.  
  • Fentanyl is a highly addictive opiate that is produced synthetically, so it is known as a synthetic opioid analgesic. Fentanyl is commonly prescribed as a skin, or transdermal patch.

What Do Opiates Look Like?

Opiates can range in appearance. Drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone come in pill form. Because they are prescribed in a formulation with acetaminophen or aspirin, different colors denote different strengths of the drug. These combinations are either in pink, blue, peach or yellow. Opiates are usually swallowed as pills to treat pain. However, there are faster paths that addicted individuals may choose, including:

  • Chewing the drug in order to increase absorption
  • Crushing and snorting pills for faster entry into the bloodstream
  • Dissolving crushed pills in water and injecting them intravenously

Individuals with an opiate addiction (opioid addiction) usually store their pills in traditional orange pill bottles or hide them in mint tins or candy jars. If the abuser crushes their pills and snorts them, they may keep the powder in small bags, twisted in a piece of cling wrap or in a foil pouch. Many abusers begin their prescription opiate addiction (opioid addiction) with a legitimate prescription. Often, they will have had a surgery or illness that requires the medication, later becoming addicted to the drug.

In some cases, this can lead to heroin abuse. Heroin is derived from morphine and is typically sold in powder form. Heroin varies in color from white to brown. Besides powder form, heroin can also be found as granules and brown crystalline pieces known as “rock.”

Are Opiates Addictive?

Opiates are highly addictive drugs, making opiate addiction (opioid addiction) a very real possibility. When an abuser takes an opiate, the drug enters the brain through the bloodstream, creating a flood of artificial endorphins and dopamine — neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of reward, pleasure, and satisfaction. This creates a rush of happiness and euphoria. This high is so unlike any naturally-occurring rush of dopamine or endorphins that the only way a person can experience it again is by using the drug again. After repeated use, however, the brain will stop creating dopamine and endorphins, limiting a person’s ability to experience these feelings again to only when they use opiates. Because of the strong and desirable feelings that flood the brain, and because they cannot feel pleasure naturally any longer, it is easy to crave an opiate high.

People choose to abuse opiates in order to lessen their pain and continue experiencing these euphoric feelings on demand. This is one of the main reasons opiates are so highly addictive and why opiate addiction (opioid addiction) is such a concern. There are several steps toward developing opiate addiction (opioid addiction). The first is tolerance — when a person has to use increasingly larger doses of opiates to experience the same high. Next comes physical dependence, when the body will enter withdrawal if the abuser stops taking the drug. Finally, psychological dependence, or cravings for opiates set in — the hallmark of opiate addiction (opioid addiction). Many people who are in the grips of opiate addiction (opioid addiction) become addicted unintentionally.

For some, they begin using the drugs with a legitimate prescription in response to an accident or surgery that would have caused them pain. By the time they no longer need the drugs for their pain, however, opiates have taken hold in the brain and cause a physical dependence starting an opiate addiction (opioid addiction). Some abusers will fake continued pain symptoms in order to get refills on their prescription, or “doctor shop” and visit different doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions at once. Prescription painkillers are also available on the black market or dark web but can be very expensive. For this reason, many who start their opiate addiction using prescription opiates will end up abusing heroin, as it is cheaper to use and easier to get a hold of. In fact, a survey in 2014 found that nearly all of the respondents in treatment for opioid addiction resorted to using heroin because prescription pills were more expensive and harder to obtain.

Long-term opioid use changes the way nerve cells work in the brain. This happens even to people who take opioids for a long time to treat pain, as prescribed by their doctor. The nerve cells grow used to having opioids around, so when they are taken away suddenly, the brain has a volatile reaction. This results in unpleasant feelings and reactions, known as withdrawal symptoms. One of the hallmarks of opiate addiction (opioid addiction) is a person who abuses opiates even though it has admitted negative effects on their life. They have strong urges to take opiates — called cravings — and they no longer feel satisfied by natural rewards (like chocolate, sex, TV or a walk on the beach).

With stigma still being attached to the word “addiction,” many people avoid going to treatment and end up endangering themselves. We believe that there is no shame in opiate addiction, opioid addiction or any addiction — it is a disease. And, as with any disease, it requires medical care and attention. With the right course of action, detoxification, treatment plans and supervision from the best staff, you can put opiate addiction (opioid addiction) in the past and go about living a happy and successful life. There is no better time to seek treatment than now.

Signs and Symptoms of Opiate Abuse

Symptoms of opiate abuse can be physical or psychological in nature.

Physical signs

  • Confusion
  • Diarrhoea
  • Sweating
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Constricted pupils
  • Intermittent nodding off, or loss of consciousness
  • Marked sedation/drowsiness
  • Noticeable elation/euphoria
  • Slowed breathing

Psychological or behavioural symptoms

  • Social withdrawal/isolation
  • Doctor shopping (getting multiple prescriptions from different doctors)
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Extra pill bottles turning up in the trash
  • Sudden financial problems
  • Anxiety
  • Inability to sleep

Most Commonly Abused Opiates

Below is a comprehensive list of commonly abused opiates.


Tramadol is a painkiller and opioid analgesic typically prescribed for the treatment of moderate to moderately severe pain. Its use is generally considered to be safer than administration of narcotic analgesics like hydrocodone and methadone for pain relief. Nonetheless, Tramadol has a high potential for abuse and is commonly abused for its pleasurable effects.

In high doses, Tramadol can produce euphoric and mood-enhancing effects. But continuous abuse in high doses places you at the risk of seizures and convulsions.


Demerol is a type of morphine that is used to treat acute episodes of moderate to severe pain. The drug can be referred to as a narcotic analgesic, as it causes a variety of actions that affect both the body and brain. Demerol’s therapeutic value as a sedative and analgesic is only visible when used in appropriate doses.If abused, the effects of Demerol are dangerous and can easily lead to:

  • Tolerance
  • Physical dependence
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not using the drug
  • Potentially fatal respiratory depression
  • Overdose

Because of its potency, and because it’s a type of morphine, Demerol is not meant to be used long term. For safety’s sake, the drug should not be used for more than 12 weeks. People who abuse Demerol recreationally consume the drug by chewing, snorting, crushing, or dissolving and injecting it. Regardless of how Demerol is consumed, its potential for addiction is high.

Hydrocodone (Vicodin)

Vicodin is a very commonly abused opiate. Hydrocodone medication is the most popularly prescribed drug in the US. The drug is an opioid and can be classified as a narcotic analgesic. As an opioid, Hydrocodone interferes with pain signals in the brain and leads to a change in the emotional reaction and brain’s perception of pain.

Hydrocodone is commonly prescribed as a pain reliever and can be found being marketed under the popular brand name Vicodin (a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen). Due to its potency, Hydrocodone is a habit-forming drug. Even if used according to prescription, the risk of developing a dependence on Hydrocodone is still high.

A number of people addicted to Hydrocodone started out using the drug as a treatment for managing pain and, along the way, became addicted to its euphoric effects. Use of the drug over a period of time will eventually lead to tolerance to it. Increased tolerance implies your body will require higher doses of the drug to feel the desired effects.

Opiate Abuse Treatment

Opiate abuse and addiction is an illness that should not be left untreated. However, there is no one size fits all approach to treating the opiate dependence of all addicts. Instead, addiction treatment will depend on the unique circumstances of your addiction and how you have been abusing the substance of abuse (frequency, dose, and if drugs were being combined). Generally, opiate addiction treatment will consist of detoxification, rehabilitation, counseling, recovery support, and pharmacological therapies (if necessary).

The addiction recovery care you need can be provided either through inpatient or outpatient programmes – it all depends on the severity of your addiction and your unique circumstances.

For instance, outpatient treatment will be sufficient if your opiate addiction isn’t severe and does not require round the clock care. Inpatient treatment, on the other hand, is better if the addiction is severe and you are experiencing intense withdrawal symptoms. This is because an inpatient facility provides around the clock nursing care, as well as a safe and conducive environment for recovery.

If you or a loved one have been abusing opiates, get help today by visiting a rehab center or call a confidential helpline for professional guidance on what your options are for treatment.

Choosing the Best Inpatient Opiate Rehab Center

Opiates are a broad category of drugs that include heroin, morphine, and narcotic painkillers. According to the King County Department of Community and Human Services, roughly 5 percent of the United States population misuses opiates. Opiates cause physical and psychological dependence. If you or a loved one is dependent on opiates, you may need the assistance of a private rehab facility. For advice on finding the best opiate treatment program.

Inpatient Facilities vs. Outpatient Treatment

Opiate addiction is treatable. Private rehabilitation programs can be inpatient or outpatient. Inpatient facilities provide a place to live, meals and on-site treatment options. An outpatient opiate rehab facility provides treatment while patients continue to live in their own homes and keep their work or school routines.

Residential Rehab Facilities

residential treatmentA residential private rehab facility or treatment program is for those truly addicted to opiates. Using opiates doesn't necessarily indicate addiction; many use opiates that are prescribed to help with pain. Abusing opiates may indicate a need for treatment. This means using opiates in a manner that isn't prescribed, such as taking a higher dose than prescribed, or snorting or smoking opiates. Opiate addiction means that you experience withdrawal symptoms when you don't take opiates. According to MedlinePlus, opiate withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Tears
  • Anxiousness
  • Body aches
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Tolerance vs. Opiate Dependence

Opiate tolerance and opiate dependence are both indicators that you may need treatment in a private rehab facility. Opiate tolerance means that you need increasingly larger amounts of the drug to achieve the same high. Opiate dependence means that you need opiates to prevent experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Both indicate you or your loved one should consider an opiate treatment program.

Opiate Rehab Privacy

Inpatient private rehabilitation programs are required by federal law to protect the privacy of their patients. The overall privacy of your private rehab center, though, depends on which opiate rehab facility you choose. Private rehabilitation facilities may offer options such as a private room and high security. For information on which opiate treatment programs offer the privacy you need for recovery, call us today.

Best Inpatient Drug Rehab Center

Side Note PictureRehabilitation, or rehab, can be used to help a person recover from addictions, injuries, and even physical or mental illnesses. However, drug rehab programs are usually the most common types of rehab.

Length of Inpatient Rehabilitation Programs

The length of your stay at a private rehab facility depends on several factors. According to the Alcohol Drug Abuse Help and Resource Center, the average length of stay in an inpatient treatment center is 28 days. This is a relatively short period of time and doesn't always offer enough time to detox from opiates and begin recovery.

For opiate addiction treatment, a 60-day treatment program or a 90-day treatment program may be more advisable to make certain you or your loved one has truly recovered.

I Want to Find an Executive or Luxury Rehab Center

If corporate responsibilities have kept you or your loved one from getting help for a substance abuse problem or behavioral addiction, executive rehab programs are the answer. By combining great substance addiction and behavior treatments with the flexibility of computer and cell phone access, an executive or CEO can get healthy in privacy and style.

Many modern addiction treatment centers offer the luxury amenities you'd expect to find in the nation's finest hotels, with your success and comfort being the top priorities. From private rooms and 5-star chef-prepared meals to fine linens and gym facilities, you can get the best substance and behavior addiction treatment for yourself or your loved one while relaxing in style. For assistance in looking for the greatest luxury treatment facilities for opiate addiction, call our toll-free helpline today.

What Happens During Treatment?

Private rehab facilities take several steps to help you achieve your goal of ending your addiction to opiates.

  • Intake: Before you begin your opiate treatment program, you meet with the staff to assess what type of care you need.
  • Detoxification from opiates: Detoxification is the process of getting the opiates out of your system.
  • Addiction therapy: Once the opiates have left your system, you start therapy to help you end your addiction. This will likely include group and individual therapy.
  • Specialized care: If your addiction to opiates stems from another medical condition, your treatment staff will assist you in getting the medical help you need, along with any other specialized care you may need.
  • Extended care and aftercare: Once your opiate treatment program is completed, your care isn't over. You will need a plan and assistance as you reintegrate into your life. Aftercare may include attending group meetings, such as Narcotics Anonymous, or individual counseling.

Paying for Opiate Addiction Treatment

One of the biggest concerns when you're considering a private rehab facility is paying for treatment. Some private rehab facilities take health insurance, while others require private payment. Don't let treatment costs keep you from investigating your options. Many facilities will work with you and your family to finance your care costs.

For information about your options, call us day or night.

Where to Get Treatment

There may be private treatment programs near you, but it may be better to relocate for treatment. Relocating or traveling may assist you in achieving a fresh start, without the distractions of friends or family. Staying near home may allow you to see your loved ones more frequently, which may be helpful if they support your treatment.

Staying Sober

Once you've completed your treatment at a private rehab facility, you'll need community support. It's critical to find group support, such as local NA meetings, and to continue any other treatment recommended by your care providers, which may include individual counseling or vocational training.

Determining Treatment Readiness

Private treatment programs can be effective, even if the addict doesn't consider himself ready for treatment. As long as the treatment starts and continues, you can make a full recovery from opiate addiction. You aren't alone in needing treatment; 20 percent of all drug treatment admissions are related to opiates, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Learning About Options

Side Note PictureOpiate rehabilitation can be complex, and there are many aspects of treatment to investigate further. Interventions, for example, are a means of getting an addicted loved one to accept treatment. Assessment, intake, detox, and opiate withdrawal are all steps along the path to wellness. Understanding the differences between residential treatment and outpatient treatment is critical to making an informed decision.

You should also learn more about the various methods of treating opiate addiction. Religious treatment incorporates the addict's faith into care. Holistic treatment involves alternative therapies such as yoga and tai chi in care. There are many 12-step programs, such as Narcotics Anonymous, and non-12-step programs, which don't have the spiritual emphasis. All can be effective; it just depends on which one is best suited for you and your loved one. Sober living is another important treatment option. Sober living takes place after you leave your opiate rehab facility. It's generally a group home, where you live with others who are in recovery and find work as you reintegrate into your life. This is a critical aspect of your aftercare and recovery plan.

Never Too Late

Opiate addiction is treatable. No matter how discouraged you or your loved one may be, you can turn your addiction around with help.

For advice on the best private rehab facility for you, call us.

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